2004’s ...Is a Real Boy showcased an emerging songwriting wunderkind in one Max Bemis, a religion-, drug- and sex-obsessed 23-year-old blessed with a flair for the theatrical and cursed with an oft-crippling case of bipolar disorder.
Bemis further indulges his passion for genre-skipping and double entendre with this 27-track, two-disc lion’s roar of an album. Loosely described as alt-emo, Genre shifts from the slinky, synthy dance beats of “Baby Girl, I’m a Blur” to swinging, lounge lizard-y kiss-off “That Is Why.” Particularly on the second disc, cuts like “Have at Thee!,” “The Word You Wield” and the title track belie a harder, more guitar-driven sound than its predecessor, but at the same time, the hushed “Goodbye Young Tutor, Now You’ve Outgrown Me” and “Retarded in Love”—a sparse, solemn, angelic-harmonied ballad equally sweet and raunchy—subtly build and break just as dramatically as the relationships at their centers.
There are a few glaring missteps (“Shiksa” laughingly marvels “I have a girlfriend now!” ad nauseam), and one tight disc would have better warranted all the hoopla. But there’s a raw vitality surging throughout (Bemis possesses no self-filtering mechanisms when it comes to confessing his doubts and desires), and it’s hard not to like a guy who, even when he’s in love, is deliciously cynical as hell.
In Defense of the Genre